The countdown to New Year's has begun! Resolutions are being etched in, er, paper. What if you actually made good on the promise to live each day like it's your last? Would you track down and collar the one that got away? Risk arrest to let your poodle piddle in the park? Would your fears, money concerns--even your diet--get kicked to the curb? PATRICE ADCROFT takes up the challenge and lives like there's only two tomorrows. What lessons did she learn?
DAY ONE, 8 A.M. THE experiment begins. Before making my two-day to-do list, I prioritize the so-called commitments on my calendar.
LUNCH WITH INDUSTRY MAGNATE: NO
PILATES COACH: MAYBE
VOLUNTEERING AT SOUP KITCHEN: JUST KIDDING
This exercise shows me that I am shallow, unambitious, and destined to leave this world with tartar between my teeth. Twenty seconds to the real me--not bad.
MY ULTIMATE TO-DO LIST
1) Wear all of my most fabulous shoes, 24/7--blisters be damned.
2) Take taxis everywhere, necessitated by number one.
3) Get my novel off my computer and into the hands of a high-powered agent.
4) Devise long-lasting (perhaps perpetual) annoyance for my ex.
5) Have breakfast at Tiffany's with photographer/friend in tow to record my attempt at Audrey Hepburn glamour.
6) Nap in my Vera Wang wedding gown--if only to get one more use out of it.
7) Find new true love (may be a tad ambitious).
8) Gorge myself at one of Manhattan's top restaurants.
9) Ignore the leash laws and let my dog run free in the park.
10) Make a contribution, through actions, toward world peace (seems to contradict number four, but whatever).
While preparing my breakfast of juiced vegetables and protein powder, it occurs to me that I no longer have to eat this way. I toss the potion into the sink, and the drain gurgles with delight. Instead, I'll have Coke and a brownie a la mode (chased by two Tums). Tomorrow? Cold pizza.
At 8:45 a.m. I phone the literary agent, hoping to reach her before the hundreds of other would-be novelists do. Her machine picks up (I love it when a plan comes together), and I start groveling for the sake of immortality. What are the chances she's even in town? Or that she'll remember me? (I've had a bit of a drought--12 years since my last novel.) The answering machine warns there are only 30 seconds left. I blather on, making sure there's no tape left for other writers.
TOO MANY SHOES, TOO LITTLE TIME
I think about contacting everyone I love and thanking them for being--them. Then I rationalize that my friends and family know how I feel, and if they don't, they haven't been paying attention. Too late now. I can't miss my 10 a.m. hair appointment. I slip my feet into lime-green-with-skinny-plastic-strap sandals that are more unstable than the Middle East and hail a cab. So far, so good. Once in the salon chair, I can refine my agenda while getting a pedicure (several pairs of the must-wear shoes are open-toe, including those I have on).
But the hair gods have other plans. After 20 minutes of waiting for my roots to change color, I get impatient and head for the shampoo sink. Master colorist Aran asks if I've lost my mind. I tell him no, I'm just in a hurry.
"I will not have my art form compromised for your schedule. You know that shade is complicated!"
Have I just alienated the man it took years of heartbreak--not to mention split ends--to find, and a dozen haircolors to trust? Then again, he's always pissy before noon--and I don't have to care because, in theory at least, this will be my last appointment.
"How about my pedicure?"
"Her train's running late.
You'll have to reschedule."
I grab a bottle of Bronze Shimmer polish from my purse and thread a tissue through my toes myself. Wedged between my right ear and shoulder is my cell phone; I dial information for restaurant numbers. Ten minutes and two wrong numbers later, I reach the restaurant, or at least its directory. My phone, slippery with haircolor, slides from my ear. After several more attempts, I finally get a too-perky woman who tells me she can't hear me. How am I supposed to charm (or beg) my way into a last meal over the whine of blowdryers?
DOG DAY AFTERNOON
It's past noon when I'm released from the salon. I race home to change my shoes and grab Zola, my poodle, for a quick walk. She greets me with the enthusiasm people reserve for a lottery win. (Does she know she's in the will? Or has she already mastered the art of living every day to its fullest?) I can tick off task number nine on my list, in which I take my faithful companion to frolic along the Hudson River.
Midday-midweek, the stretch of sod is empty. Unclipping Zola's leash, I give her the signal to run. She cocks her head, clearly concerned about my mental health. "You go, girl," I encourage her. "Run!"
And she's off, bounding over rock gardens and nascent flower beds, airborne with delight.
I admire my floral-print-with-satin-lace-up-ribbon ankle boots. I'm in the moment! Momentarily, however, a city-parks policewoman arrives by bicycle and asks me to read the sign aloud: "No dogs off leash." She yanks a ticket pad from her pocket and tells me to call my dog.
I trot--rather well, I might add, given the dizzying height of my boots' heels--toward the lawn before I realize that Zola now sees this as some kind of game. Even though I have graduated from dog/master obedience school, I make the mistake of running toward her, panicking her, while my fabric heels slide into the soggy earth.
"Miss," the officer yells, "Right now. Hey, she's squatting!"
Usually, where there's squat, there's fluid.
The officer ups my fine from $35 to $55 or the option of a court date two weeks away--but what do I care? My arrogance shows in my smug smile and the fact that I still haven't put the canine back on her leash. The officer, clearly not amused, pulls a phone from her holster.
"I need backup," I hear her say. "Lady with a poodle ..."
This 30-minute jaunt costs Zola and me almost an hour and reprimands from two officers--plus the ticket. Thankfully, we are spared central booking.
HOW ABOUT A SECOND COURSE?
It's 3 p.m. and I'm back home, a little disillusioned with all this "magic of the moment" stuff. Ten messages, my machine tells me. I can ignore them all--except for three from a friend insisting I meet a new guy, tonight.
I return her call and say I'm busy. "Besides, I'd rather see you--can't you get us into someplace great?"
"Oh, you can see me anytime. Just one evening with Tom," she, the happily married one, says.
"One drink," I counter.
In my experience, true love and blind dates never occupy the same space in the solar system. But as fate would have it, when I meet the guy (at a neighborhood Belgian bistro), I like him almost instantly. Under normal conditions, he's someone I'd want to get to know. I fast-forward the relationship, ignoring all the rules.
"I live three blocks from here," I say breathlessly.
"Such a great neighborhood," he says pleasantly (I love pleasant). "It's OK," he reassures (I love being reassured). "I'm having a really nice time."
Should I tell him about this assignment? No. Too weird. Instead, I bat my eyes wildly, hike up my skirt, and let the toe of the orange-and-tan mules I'm wearing tickle the hem of his trousers.
Taking his air of reserve for shyness, I ask him if he'd like to have dinner with me at a chichi restaurant. We could stuff ourselves like it was our last meal. "I'll pay. I'll pay for you," I say. And I realize he has completely misinterpreted my offer. Suddenly, he has to walk his dog (I love dog owners) and is busy for the next month. We part, and I offer my lips but he chooses a cheek. My brain floods with anxiety: I may never have sex again.
As I walk back to my apartment--alone--I only want to burrow under the covers and lock out the world (this was not on the list). The restaurant I wanted to eat at is booked solid for weeks, and the guy I like believes in getting to know someone before sleeping with her. Is there no such thing as instant gratification?
Thankfully, a pizza parlor's neon light signals to me from across the street. I order a pie to go, planning ahead for the morning's cold pizza and real Coke. Instead of drinking it out of the can, I will pour the soft drink into a Waterford wineglass and place the cold slice on my Haviland china. Where are those linen napkins?
I have just wasted the first day of the rest of my life.
MAKEUP FOR LOST TIME
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Today, I am determined to get things right. Everything will take on the urgency of Final Jeopardy. And as a result, my life will become more meaningful--I think.
As if to applaud my new-found resolve, the answering machine gives me a blink: one unplayed message. Miraculously, the literary agent phoned last night (while I was attempting to pay for sex) and says to drop by. Just back from Europe, she's doing some catching up and will be in her office. My timing, it seems, is perfect. Despite the blossoming blisters, I manage to force my feet into a pair of silver satin sandals with curled aluminum heels. I'm now the perfect height to catch every mirror on my walls, and I can see that on three hours of sleep, I am not the fairest of them all. How can I see anyone, let alone an agent who needs to visualize my photograph on a book jacket?
After rifling through my makeup bag for concealer (not finding any) and attacking the medicine cabinet in the vain pursuit of eye cream, I race out of the house for an emergency visit to the 24-hour drugstore. I ignore the businessman waiting for a cab and nearly throw myself on a taxi's roof. Once in the cosmetics aisle, I toss everything from lip plumper to line eraser into my basket, checking the labels for the magic words: "instant," "younger," "firmer," "faster." Reading the fine print at checkout, I end up leaving several potions described as "immediate"--meaning, in beauty-speak, 10 to 14 days--behind.
Back home, ignoring the instructions to "dab gently," I slather the creams, fillers, and plumpers over my face. Within seconds a film, not unlike gelatin, forms. My expression appears frozen, and one side of my face seems slightly higher than the other. But the laugh lines are gone.
Not ready to give up on a great last meal, I spend the next 45 minutes trying to book dinner at yet another venue via the Web (no luck). Discouraged, I ditch the information highway for a magazine piece on five-minute makeup routines (reading time: 15 minutes). There's also a must-read list of "1000 Places to Visit Before You Die." I'll have to settle for 1000 places to flip to.
This is what I missed--the logical choice of dashing off to some island paradise. But given the current state of airport-security checks (and the fact that I only have 19 hours left), I'll never get there. Frantically, I grab the TV remote and find the Weather Channel. I hit pay dirt: There's a special on the waters of the Caribbean.
ALL WRAPPED UP, NO PLACE TO GO
High noon. My meeting with the literary agent is a success. She's so supportive--she even compliments my pink-ostrich-with-silver-buckle shoes!--that I don't mind a bit when she tells me she won't be able to back to me for two (Nothing with a posthumous award!) For the sake of my obituary, I find myself inspired to do something for someone else.
First stop: a neighborhood nursing home. I offer to help--for an hour. The woman there politely tells me volunteer orientation takes place the first Saturday of every month. Just five blocks away is a center for teenage runaways: I'll cheerfully trade a little foot pain (wait, there's a pair of paisley-print slides in my bag) for that great feeling of reaching out to others. But volunteers there, I learn, must fill out extensive paperwork, bring letters of recommendation, and sign on for a two-year commitment. If only someone had held my estranged husband to these standards. Desperate for a human to help, I scan the streets for elderly persons strapped to walkers stranded at street corners. Where are the needy when you need them?
Mid-afternoon, exhausted from my attempts at charity, I decide to nap. From the top of my closet, I wrestle down the box that houses my wedding gown. It's no ordinary box, but a "Lifetime of Loveliness Bridal Gown Treasure Chest Featuring an Acid-Free Chamber." Somehow, the chamber proves a time machine. I'm amazed by the preservative powers of tissue paper, a discovery I wish I'd made in my 20s. I wriggle in: The zipper goes only three-fourths of the way up. Fortunately, I sleep on my back. When the dog wakes me 15 minutes later, I notice the gown has lost its glow (the tulle train is wrapped around one leg) and there's a pizza stain (or is it a pizza paw print?) on my backside.
By 5 p.m. Zola needs a walk, so I snap on the leash, and we hit the street. With less than 15 hours left, I'm feeling torn between lavishing affection on everyone I meet and ignoring them altogether. Suddenly in front of me is my ex, accompanying a woman who was still in a car seat in the '80s. Normally, on such an occasion, one of us would cross the street. (We live a mere three blocks from each other, and to prevent myself from being slapped with a manslaughter charge, I've asked him not to stroll on my street.) But as he begins to steer clear of my path, I stop him--it's time for me to make my contribution to world peace. I throw my arms around him, holding him long enough to forget that I'm on a timetable.
I flash to the only other time that I wore my wedding dress and lose myself in that day: happiness and hope powerful enough to halt time. I finally break the embrace, and he, flushed and uncertain, somehow blurts out, "This is Amy." He is looking at my feet, wistfully. I'm wearing my yellow-velvet backless heels with crystal beading, his favorites. He winces as he glances at Amy's running shoes. He and I may never reunite, but this chick is history.
A CLEAN BREAK
At 7 p.m., I decide I am boycotting all restaurants. I'll order in--everything on the menu. The delivery guy asks if I'm having a party. "Why? Doing anything?" I ask, before realizing he's only lingering in hopes of a big tip. For the first time in days, I notice the condition of my apartment. The garbage is ripening, and there are large piles of clothes (tried on and discarded because they don't go with the shoes--no time to hang them up), makeup (lids off, brushes dirty, caps missing), and, of course, shoes. In my attempt to control my destiny, I have completely lost control of everyday things.
Pulling on a T-shirt and shorts, I clean the apartment (bare feet trimmed in Band-Aids), relishing every mindless minute with the scrub brush and Swifter. When I lie down at 1 a.m., I'm crawling into a freshly made bed (I even ironed the sheets). James Dean may have lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse, but I'll settle for leaving a clean apartment.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
It's 6:30 on my final morning--90 minutes to "the end." I slip into my Audrey Hepburn best--black dress, dark glasses, gloves, and pearls-and head for Tiffany's with my cup of deli coffee and, to keep things contemporary, a bag of Krispy Kremes. Only two or three cabs prowl the street in Midtown; a bus rumbles a block away. The traffic signal changes from "Walk" to "Don't Walk" without anyone hurrying across. A runner darts down the stairs of a nearby hotel and heads to Central Park. The air is calm and a little chilly, but the brightness of the light suggests a beautiful day.
I unfold a print of Audrey Hepburn's iconographic moment and sigh, realizing how silly I've been. My photographer friend reads the awkwardness in my body language ] as I attempt to pose. I confess the purposeless nature of my two days.
He chastises me. "Quit being so hard on yourself. If I had 48 hours left, I'd check into a suite at the W, click on HBO, and order room service. You actually got things done. Now stop your whining and look pretty. Great shoes! I love puce!"
His words charm me: I twirl on my heel and curtsy before the silver gates of Tiffany's (really doors, but ...). Picture-taking finished, my friend flags down a taxi. I shake my head no and tell him thanks anyway. In an hour, these streets will throb with people, off to work, late for appointments. But for now, this part of the world--quiet, majestic, with possibilities--is mine. What have I learned about the nature of time? 1) Blisters form in just under six hours (time wounds all heels). 2) If you'd like a great last meal, book a month ahead. 3) Yes, we live in the present, but sometimes the way to get on with the future is to understand (or, in my case, embrace) the past. So I kick off my shoes, put them in one hand, and saunter down Fifth Avenue. Bethere's still time.
Adcroft, Patrice. "48 hrs. to do everything you've always wanted to do." Marie Claire Jan. 2006: 68+. General OneFile. Web. 30 Oct. 2009.
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